Summer program options for high-schoolers

By Lexi Walters Wright

At a glance

  • Summer programs can help teens build skills and explore interests.

  • There may be free or low-cost summer options in your area.

  • Some programs can help prepare teens for college or work.

Summer is a great time for teens to build skills and explore interests. Structured programs can help high school students who learn and think differently spend the summer months productively.

Many families are looking for something different this year. Camps and other programs may be closed. Or they may no longer be a good fit for a teen’s new interests. Family schedules and financial situations may have changed.

Not every program requires a big commitment of time or money. Short programs let teens try out something they’re not sure about yet — and meet kids who share their interests.

The parks department, community centers, colleges, and school districts may have programs available. These may include free or low-cost options, from one-day workshops to programs that last all summer.

Activities to develop interests

  • Outdoor adventure programs
  • Volunteer programs
  • Service-learning programs
  • Art, drama, and music programs
  • Technology workshops
  • Sports clinics or teams, or fitness classes
  • Hobby-based programs: woodworking, cooking, etc.
  • Religious or cultural programs
  • Military leadership programs
  • Summer programs specifically for kids who learn and think differently

Activities to boost academic skills

  • Subject-based programs: foreign language immersion, math camp, etc.
  • Academic programs specifically for kids who learn and think differently
  • Tutoring sessions (group or one-on-one)
  • Online courses (check with your school district if you’re looking for courses that offer high school credits)

Activities to prepare for college

  • ACT and SAT test prep courses
  • Writing workshops
  • College courses (in person or online)
  • College prep programs specifically for kids with learning and thinking differences

Activities to learn about the work world

  • Internships, apprenticeships, or job-shadowing programs
  • City- or state-sponsored youth employment programs
  • Other kinds of summer jobs, if your area is open for business

Find out what to ask when evaluating summer camps. And see free and low-cost options that may be available through your public library.

Key takeaways

  • There are programs specifically for kids who learn and think differently.

  • A short program is a great way to try out something new.

  • Teens and families can talk about which summer programs sound interesting.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Lexi Walters Wright is the former Community Manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Jenn Osen-Foss, MAT is an instructional coach, supporting teachers in using differentiated instruction, interventions, and co-planning.